Eating healthy in college: Local resources engage students in healthy choices

Allison Mueller


Dietitian Jennifer Hackbarth passes out healthier granola samples from Hy-Vee at the Food and Nutrition Club meeting Thursday, Sept. 17. (Photo by Sara Tiradossi)
Dietitian Jennifer Hackbarth passes out healthier granola samples from Hy-Vee at the Food and Nutrition Club meeting Thursday, Sept. 17. (Photo by Sara Tiradossi)

Sara Tiradossi/Winonan

Eating healthy can be a struggle for college students who shop on a budget—especially when the choices seem nonexistent.

The Food and Nutrition Club at Winona State University is one group focused on ways to learn about eating healthy and leading an active lifestyle.

Health, exercise and rehabilitative services professor Janet Macon has been the advisor for the Food and Nutrition Club since its first appearance at Winona State and has helped the club grow every year.

Macon said the club used to be called Nutrition Club, but the name has recently changed to “Food and Nutrition Club” because it not only explores the role that nutrition plays in our life, but it also teaches about food trends and how to make choices.

“One of the programs that the club puts up is ‘Feed My Starving Children,’ a hunger relief organization where many volunteers pack tons of meals and help out to draw attention to hunger,” Macon said.

Vice President Sarah Stern said the club always finds opportunities to teach how to enhance health among college students while finding out about new and health-promotion foods.

“We usually tour places like Hy-Vee, and next month we are planning on taking a tour of the co-op in downtown Winona so that the club members are aware of the great choice of healthy food that our community provides,” Stern said.

Hy-Vee dietitian Jennifer Hackbarth was the guest speaker of the Food and Nutrition Club meeting on Thursday and brought food samples from Hy-Vee to show the different and unique food options that students can find when they are grocery shopping.

While passing around samples of low-sugar and sodium granola bars, she said it is important to look for sodium and sugar levels.

“Healthy eating is challenging in college, but it has such an important role,” Hackbarth said. “There have been plenty of studies showing how eating healthy affects performance in school. College students have to find a balance in what they eat. It is okay to have treats but always to a moderation.”

Hackbarth said college is a very challenging time of people’s lives because students go through a lot of body, metabolism and lifestyle changes.

“Most college students believe that healthy food is very expensive and shopping can be that way, but it is possible to find great deals and good compromises with frozen or canned food as well,” Hackbarth said. “Having the proper nutrition helps to improve performance both in the classroom and with sports, which is a big part of a college student’s life. It also has a large role on how you feel mentally.”

Hackbarth said Hy-Vee has registered dietitians who will take students on a healthy tour of the store by appointment.

“I usually offer free store tours, and that is a huge education tool for college students to consider when they are shopping on a budget,” Hackbarth said. “When it comes to bread, for example, we advise what is the best kind to choose between white and wheat.”

Hackbarth said she has seen a lot of changes in behavior throughout her career, and customers keep coming in Hy-Vee for guidance on food selection.

“I once helped a lady to lower the cholesterol in her body, and a few months afterward she came to visit me again almost crying because her cholesterol level had dropped thanks to my help,” Hackbarth said. Hackbarth said sometimes people want to make changes, but they just do not know how.

She said she hopes this will change.